Kurt Stenberg laughs at being called a hero.
The eight-year Red Deer firefighter and EMT was responsible for pulling over a school bus on Monday that had crashed into a tree and sign in Vanier Woods with 18 kids on board.
Stenberg says he’d just pulled up to his family’s home on Van Slyke Way with his young daughter when he heard the crash.
“This bus was up on the sidewalk -- it had drove over a tree and a sign, just flattened it. It was kind of shaking back and forth, and then it veered back onto the street,” he describes.
"Nobody else was around -- I was waving my arms in the air because she didn't stop immediately. She was kind of moving slowly and a little bit erratically, almost like she was considering stopping. I was yelling to stop. She got to the end of the street and then turned left."
Stenberg threw his daughter back in the truck, ripped up the road cutting off someone else in order to perform a U-turn and then saw the tail end of the school bus up Voisin Close.
“People must've thought I was crazy because the bus was gone and they hadn't seen what happened. I pulled the car right and had to jump over the curb a bit,” he says. “I got alongside the bus, rolled down the passenger-side window, leaned over, asked her if she'd hit a tree and a sign back there. She denied it and suggested it was perhaps the Catholic school bus down the street, but I hadn't seen any other buses."
Noticing some damage on the front of the bus, Stenberg cut his truck around to block the bus from moving forward. He managed to get the bus driver to open the door for him, noting she was acting slow and confused and that he was concerned she might be diabetic.
“It seemed unlikely a bus driver would be intoxicated,” the 34-year-old says.
Meanwhile, his wife was trying to call him while he was on the phone to 9-1-1. When she arrived at the scene from her job as a nurse, she blocked the bus from the back.
"I helped her [Kolodychuk] out of the bus -- was very kind to her. I said we were going to get her some help and she was very stumbly on her feet. That's when I went back inside the bus, put it into park -- it was just idling, so I pulled the air brake, shut it off and took the key away. She resisted that a little bit, but seemed to be so confused. I asked her if she had any medical problems multiple times, and she denied."
Stenberg then returned to the bus to talk to the kids.
“Being various ages, they had some interesting questions as to what was going on. I asked them if they'd hit a tree and a sign and a bunch of kids piped up and said yes they had. I just said Shelly the bus driver might be sick or just needs some help and to just to wait because the fire truck was coming. They were all okay, so I stepped out and waited with Shelly,” he says.
Stenberg claims he smelled some sweetness on her breath, which he says is certainly not conclusive of alcohol. He says a similar smell can be caused by someone who is diabetic, though Kolodychuk didn’t have a medical alert bracelet on, he adds.
“I didn't even ask her if she'd had anything to drink. It didn't really matter at that point."
Whether people want to call him a hero or not, Stenberg says he’s just in shock and disbelief that somebody would actually drive 18 kids around while intoxicated.
“I didn't have judgement against her at the time and I think everyone should be treated fairly until it's proven."
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